We are now (give-or-take) 4 weeks into the NCHSAA high school baseball season and it’s time to take a look at how things are shaking out in the Smoky Mountain Conference.
The weather has made it difficult for some teams in our area to get games in, but all teams have played at least 4 games to this point. Here are the standings-
1. Hayesville (4-0, 4-0)
The Jackets have struggled with poor playing conditions all year, as they are still working things out at their new field. However, when they have been able to take the field, they’ve picked up right where they left off last year. Through 4 games, they’ve outscored opponents at a clip of 35-8. Things are going to get progressively harder though for the Jackets, as their 4 wins this year have come against the bottom 2 teams in the conference. Tuesdays bout vs Swain will tell us all we need to know about this young team.
2. Murphy (7-3, 5-1)
The Bulldogs struggled out of the gate, going 2-2 in their first 4 ballgames. It seems as though they’ve since figured something out, as they’re 5-1 in their previous 6 games. The offensive firepower for Murphy is anything but lacking, but they do seem to have a problem with stranding runners on base. The return of Payton McCracken to the lineup as he comes back from injury should help cure some of those woes. As far as pitching is concerned they have perhaps the best rotation in the conference of Isaac Cole, Cole Laney and Briggs Cornwell, it just comes down to figuring out how to manage their pitch count with the new schedule layout. With no offense to Hayesville, I look for Murphy and Swain to make the furthest run when it comes playoff time due to their experience and pitching rotation.
2. Swain (6-3, 5-1)
The most experienced team in the conference is also home to arguably the best pitcher in the conference. Charlie Collins can absolutely shove, and he’s proven to be nearly untouchable so far this year. Through 22.2 innings pitched, Collins has struck out 38 batters while boasting a .93 ERA. His 4-1 record on the mound is only blemished by an opening day loss to Smoky Mountain in which the Maroon Devils committed 7 errors. Offensively, Gabe Lillard, Will Jenkins and Carson Taylor are the ones to watch. The trio has combined for 24 RBI’s, 9 doubles, 2 triples and 2 home runs through 9 games.
After going 1-1 vs Murphy earlier this season, we will see how the Maroon Devils match up with the other top SMC team in Hayesville this week.
4. Cherokee (3-6, 3-3)
Cherokee and Hiwassee Dam will battle all year for the 4 spot in the conference, it will just come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes.
5. Hiwassee Dam (3-5, 1-3)
Runs have been hard to come by for HD, as they’ve only scored an average of 3.5 runs per game through their first 8 games. When the Eagles bats do get going, Tanner Taylor and Clay Davis have been the cause of most of the offensive production. A team made up of 1 senior, 2 juniors, 7 sophomores and 5 freshman, this could be the team of the future if they stay together and use this year as a building block. I see them competing for an SMC crown in 2024.
6. Andrews (0-5, 0-4)
Talent is not the issue when it comes to this Andrews team. We saw what they can do on the football field this previous year, and a lot of those athletes have taken their talents over to the diamond. The Wildcats are another really young team with only 1 senior on the roster, but they have the talent to compete in this conference if put in the right situation.
7. Robbinsville (1-7, 0-6)
The Knights kicked off their season with a big win over Mountain Heritage, but have been unable to gain their footing since then. Again, a team with little to no senior players (3), you can see that youth has played a big part in why some of these teams are near the bottom of the standings.
Here are the Conference stat leaders as of April 3rd: